Vertical Setting at the College Level

 Beach Nation teaches skills not drills.  Technical mastery and consistency are core beliefs so our goal is to empower players to develop volleyball habits of excellent technique.  As a college beach coach at GCU we spend large amounts of time breaking bad  habits formed during the previous 4 to 8 years of junior’s level beach volleyball.. Having coached and recruited across the United States it is clear that most high school players are side setters which may work indoors but a big problem on the beach.  Side setting is when you are more parallel along the net and vision is also more to the sidelines than the net/court in front of you.  My collegiate team and many professional players have found immediate improvement to their game when they transitioned from side setting to vertical setting as it gives the setting several advantages and allows the hitter a clearer view of where the set is going.  Here are just a few benefits to vertical setting:

  1.  You can visually identify the other side of the court.  If you locate the positions of the blocker and the defender, you can better determine the kind of set needed. You will also increase the success rate of your “option ball” attack because if you see the other team out of position, you know where to attack. 
  2. Accuracy of the set is increased when you can visually reference the distance to the net prior to release of the set.  If your shoulders are outside the antenna or side setting, you must guess the distance, increasing the difficulty to set.  I often compare it to basketball and free throws.  The percentage of success for free throws is often over 90% when facing the basket and standing on the line.  If you asked the same person to turn left or right even a few degrees, the percentage drops significantly.
  3. This will create a “Triangulation” between the hitter’s approach and the setter’s position to the future ball contact point. 

To set Vertically get your shoulders square to where the attacker’s hitting shoulder’s contact location will be.  In almost all circumstances, your shoulders face inside the antennas, putting you in a “vertical” position to be able to see what to do.

The challenge is to change the standard set from side to vertical setting.  We have found that tracking a couple key indicators will help the players logically see the benefits of vertical setting:

  1. Did the player meet the ball and pause before the set?
  2. Was the player square to the hitter’s desired contact point on the set? Please note: players will tend to position themselves to side set and then turn to square up as they set.  This should  is a unsuccessful vertical set.  Did the setter create a triangle biased on the hitter’s alignment and the future contact point?
  3. If both are yes, then the first letter of the player’s name will be placed in the left column.
  4. If either one is no, then the first letter of the player’s name will be placed in the right column.
  5. If the coach/ hitter deems the set  successful or a good set, then a circle will be placed under the player’s initial in the associated column,
  6. If the set was deemed unsuccessful or an out of system set, an X will be placed under the player’s initial.

Coaches tracking system:

Example:  I tracked 34 total setting attempts from Taylor and Anaya. I watched who was setting and gave them a “yes” or “no” evaluation on criteria 1 and 2 as well as whether it was a successful attempt to the desired contact location for the attacker.

On set attempt 1; Anaya (A) successfully lined her shoulders up to Taylor’s desired shoulder contact location.  The set was successful in that it reached the contact location point.  The statistical analysis that can be gained from this tracking will help you prove/disprove what set style is more accurate.

                                                          Taylor = T   Anaya = A

You can use this method to track vertical setting in any drill or match.  The goal is to have players see that vertical setting is more successful than side setting.  Please note: Although it is possible a player would find greater success with their bad habits now, they will have greater potential and less headaches down the road when they make sure to focus on the details and practice the right way in the beginning of their career. At Beach Nation, we strive to teach the most successful techniques first and allow players to grow their style from that good foundation.   See you at the beach!

Beach Nation is the educational partner of the AVCA and the JVA.  Written by Joe Rich, Grand Canyon University Assistant Coach

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